Mon Dieu Projects launched in LA at the beginning of April with a bang of a provocative show Intimate Exchanges with artists such as Shen Wei, Ian Stone, and Nadine Faraj, and now are back at it again, though this time a little more subtle, but still promising a definitive art experience with their second show Abstract Adjacent. With a bevy of international artists from around the world and LA-locals, including Berlin-based Jaehong Ahn, LA-based Nadège Monchera Baer, Christopher Kuhn, and Rick Boling, the second show splashes with bursts of flashing colors – some obnoxious, some refined, however, all the pieces express sublime sensory overload and begs to question “what is abstract?” Read more about how the dynamic duo, Spencer Walker, a native Angeleno and LA-local, and Juno Youn, a Korean based in Montreal, came together to birth Mon Dieu Projects and their mission to excite and shake up the LA arts scene.
Mon Dieu Projects is American/Canadian – bicoastal from LA to Montreal, how do your different cities and nationalities influence this show?
Juno: Montreal is defined by its blend of Francophone and Anglophone cultures and its European sensibilities. The city is small compared to Los Angeles, but has an outsized influence on the Canadian and international art scenes. Diversity is prized in Canada and Mon Dieu Projects takes that glorious melting pot approach to our curation. Our current exhibition Abstract Adjacent is an extension of that with a rich blend of artists from Canada (Jeff Nachitall, Lucas Biagini, Eva Blue), Europe (Nadège Monchera Baer, Jaehong Ahn), Mexico (Bernardo Montgomery), and the US (Christopher Kuhn, Rick Boling, DL Alvarez).
What motivates you both with Mon Dieu Projects?
Juno: LA is my dream city with its near perfect weather, relaxed West Coast vibes, and the fact it is currently one of the art world epicenters. And don’t get me started of the Korean culture and food that takes me back to my youth. Mon Dieu Projects is a chance for me to spread my curatorial wings beyond Canada and level up professionally. It is an equally exciting and hopeful new adventure!
Spencer: As a new gallerist, but a lifelong collector, my hope is to celebrate and promote the artists that inspire me. My goal is for Mon Dieu Projects to contribute to both the LA and international art scene with our unique selection of artists. Discovering talent and putting them on the map is what we’re all about.
Define “what is abstract?” to you.
Spencer: For me, abstract redefines the world around us that is often disjointed and rarely straightforward. It provides a counterpoint to figurative work that can often be on-the-nose. When you see a Mark Rothko painting in person, you feel the colors and composition like a punch in the gut that you will never forget. Abstract art is challenging and makes the viewer work, and if done right, will lead to that “a-ha!” moment.
What was the biggest challenge in curating this show?
Juno: This exhibition was not as challenging as our first show Intimate Exchanges when we were new to the LA art scene and opened a new gallery space on the fly. Abstract Adjacent came together through kismet because we did a lot of the leg work in our first months setting up. We did a lot of artist studio visits, which informed exactly what we were looking for. But we had to be precise in setting up the group show with artists whose works complimented each other and still maintained that adjacent theme. The biggest challenges were logistical with shipping larger works from Berlin and Saskatchewan, Canada before getting them stretched and installed in time for the show.
How were the artists selected for the show?
Spencer: We anchored the show with the pure abstract works of Christopher Kuhn, a close friend and artist represented by Galerie Youn (Juno’s gallery in Montreal). From there, we expanded our search based on artists in our orbit that were simpatico to Kuhn’s work. We sourced the remaining artists from Juno’s deep roster, artist friends, Instagram, and vendors who turned us onto uncut gems like Bernardo Montgomery. But, as we built out the show, we realized there were some artists with figurative elements that blended those distinct mediums. And these curatorial choices opened up our scope and, collectively, thes works create a dialogue of “what is abstract?”
What is your favorite piece of the show?
Juno: I can’t really choose only one. Each work compliments the others, and together, they create an abstract symphony. I find myself staring for long periods of time at Jaehong Ahn’s “The Reconciliation of Three Tyrants”. This work with its Chinese zodiac signs amongst its European elements speaks to his Asian identity influenced by his current location in Berlin. This speaks to me being a Korean based in Canada.
Spencer: Nadège Monchera Baer’s arresting acrylic and colored pencil on red velum work “Glory” really stands out as something bold and visionary. Its deceptive white dots takes the viewer on a journey with a figurative work hidden amongst its abstract elements. French-born Baer is an artist we recently discovered whose breadth and scope of work is unyielding. Plus, Nadège has lived a fascinating life having worked with Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini and appeared in his film “Casanova”.
What’s the takeaway for Abstract Adjacent to its audience?
Juno and Spencer: Mon Dieu Projects hopes our audience learns to question the world around them. Nothing is what it seems. A good abstract exhibition will unlock some of those misrepresentations. The works found in this show are not decorative art meant for a vacation rental guest bedroom. These works are challenging and meant to provoke thought and discussions. Somewhere between abstract and figurative art there lies a gray area overflowing with bold colors and unusual compositions.
Editor’s note: this interview has been edited and condensed.